Is your cleaning routine safe for your cat?

We all love a clean home, but some household chemicals can be dangerous to cats. Here’s how to keep your cat safe from your everyday cleaning products.

Cats can’t resist jumping onto tables and kitchen worktops. That’s why you’ll want to clean these surfaces regularly to protect your family from dirt and germs. But have you stopped to consider how to keep your cat safe from household cleaning products?

Many of the products we use to clean our home surfaces may contain chemicals that are dangerous to cats, so understanding how to keep your cat safe is vital.

Which household chemicals can be dangerous for cats?

Many home and garden cleaning products contain toxic chemicals or irritants that can poison a cat or burn their skin, tongue or eyes. These products must be used with care.

Cleaning products that are dangerous to cats include disinfectants, antibacterial products and patio cleaners. The same is true for bleach and cleaners containing pine and other essential oils.

Always check the label and, if possible, consider buying pet-safe alternatives or try natural and eco-friendly solutions. Where cleaning products contain essential oils, ensure these oils are cat-friendly. Diluting chemicals and wiping down cleaned surfaces with water also reduces the risk.

Are essential oils safe for cats?

We use them to scent our home but just because an oil is suitable for humans, don’t assume it’s safe for your feline friends, too. Essential oils that are harmful to cats include:

  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet Birch
  • Tea Tree
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang

Not only are these harmful if applied to cats’ fur or if they were to be accidentally licked — they are also a danger in other forms including oil burners. Essential oils can cause organ damage in cats, as well as liver failure, seizures and even death.

If you have a reed diffuser or air freshener, be careful where you place them to avoid accidental spillage.

If you think your cat may have come into contact with an essential oil, look for adverse symptoms such as dribbling, shaking, lethargy, difficulty breathing, vomiting, collapse or seizures. Contact your vet immediately and take the suspected oil with you to the appointment.

How can I keep my cat safe from household cleaning?

Cats don’t know how to protect themselves, so here are nine simple steps you can take to help them stay safe.

  1. Buy cat-safe cleaning and disinfecting products from your vet or pet shop if possible. They kill bacteria and viruses but are safe to use around cats — even in their litter tray. Your cat may well prefer the smell, too.
  2. Don’t allow your cat to walk over a recently treated surface until it’s dry.
  3. When using sprays, move your cat to another room.
  4. Clean up spills immediately.
  5. Store cleaning products safely in a cupboard.
  6. Consider a chemical-free steam cleaner for your home or switch to eco-friendly products.
  7. If using chemicals outside, such as a patio cleaner, try not to allow your cat to access a recently treated surface, including surfaces that have become wet after rain.
  8. If using alcohol-based hand gels, make sure your hands are dry before you touch your cat.
  9. Always follow the instructions on the label of any product you use.

Are antibacterial hand gels toxic to cats?

Most antibacterial hand gels contain at least 60% alcohol and if enough is consumed by your cat, can cause vomiting, lethargy or a loss of coordination. In large quantities, they can be fatal. Thankfully, the taste and smell would probably put most cats off. As a precaution, don’t stroke your cat if you have wet gel on your hands and never put it on a cat’s fur.

How can I tell if my cat has eaten something they shouldn’t?

Thankfully, accidents like this are rare – but they can happen. Poisons act in different ways, so your cat might show immediate signs after eating something they shouldn’t have, or it could take several hours for symptoms to appear. Here’s what you need to look out for:

  • Your cat is producing too much saliva
  • They have vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • You notice changes in your cat’s drinking or appetite
  • Your cat may be urinating more, or not producing any urine
  • They may be twitching and fitting
  • They may have breathing difficulties
  • They may go into shock or collapse
  • You may notice an inflammation or swelling of the skin
  • They may be very lethargic

How do I treat a cat that has been poisoned by household chemicals?

Act quickly and call your vet, even if you’re not entirely sure if your cat has been poisoned. Don’t wait for further symptoms to appear, as by then your cat may be very sick. Wash off any splashes of cleaning product immediately.

Here’s what you should do if you believe your cat has been exposed:

  • Immediately take your cat away from the source of the suspected poison or chemical.
  • Keep your cat in a quiet, calming place and lock the cat flap so they can’t escape.
  • Seek treatment as soon as possible. If your vet suggests bringing your cat in for treatment, do so at the earliest possible opportunity.
  • Take the chemical bottle with you to your vet appointment to help the vet choose an appropriate treatment.

It's also a good idea to make sure your cat is fully covered for accidents with cat insurance so you can get your pet the best care should they need it.

What cleaning products do you use around your home and are they cat-safe? Share your tips for cleaning your home without risk to your pets on social media using #PethoodStories.

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